Chris Rock slaps back at Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — hard — in live Netflix special
When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars ceremony, many members of the live audience and TV viewers at home thought it was a joke — until they realized, to their horror, that it wasn’t.
After making little comment about the incident during his concert tour last year, and turning down numerous interview requests, Rock finally hit back on Saturday with a flurry of brutal jabs at Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, bringing up allegations of infidelity in their marriage and describing his Oscar-winning foe repeatedly as a “b—.” The comedic slapback came during Rock’s Netflix special “Selective Outrage,” broadcast live globally from Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre.
Last year’s Oscars went sideways when Will Smith struck Chris Rock as millions watched. “‘The Slap’: One Year Later” explains why it still matters.
“You never know who might get triggered,” Rock, dressed in an all-white outfit, joked in a (thinly) veiled allusion to the slap in his set’s opening moments, promising a show that would offend nobody. “Anybody who says ‘Words hurt’ has never been punched in the face.”
Later, during a riff on Snoop Dogg doing so many commercials, he made more pointed reference to Smith, who started out as a musician: “I’m not dissing Snoop,” he said to raucous laughter. “The last thing I need is another mad rapper.”
For much of the special, though, Rock avoided the hotly anticipated subject of his run-in with Smith to follow his friend and fellow Netflix comedian Dave Chappelle in an extended discussion of “wokeness” — including Chappelle’s regular target, trans people — and nod to such low-hanging comic fruit as O.J. Simpson, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and the Kardashians. He also included edgy material about liking opioids and how the fact that he’s paid for abortions is a sign that he’s pro-choice: “I’ve paid for more abortions than any woman in this room.” Rock also tapped a more personal vein, with extended attention to child-rearing and his love life — and a mention that his mother was in the audience.
When Rock finally confronted the slap head-on, in the set’s final minutes, he pulled no punches. “I’m not a victim, baby. You’ll never see me on Oprah or Gayle crying,” he said, contrasting his response to Smith’s. “I took that hit like Pacquiao.”
Rock dredged up the question of Pinkett Smith’s alleged infidelity to her husband — an “entanglement” the couple has addressed on the show “Red Table Talk” by saying theirs is not a “conventional marriage.” “She hurt him way more than he hurt me,” Rock quipped. He also cited her as a catalyst in the contretemps as well, drawing whistles and gasps from the audience: “She starts it, I finish it. Nobody’s pickin’ on this b—.”
“You know what my parents told me?” he said, concluding the show with a literal mic drop. “Don’t fight in front of white people.”
Anticipation had been high that Rock would discuss the attack during the special — his first since Netflix’s “Chris Rock: Tamborine” — after previously telling audiences he would have to get paid before he would talk about the incident.
Tyler Perry, Tiffany Haddish and others spoke to The Times about Black creatives’ evolving attitudes toward Smith and Chris Rock since the Oscars slap.
The premiere of “Selective Outrage” comes just days after Smith received a special award from the African American Critics Assn. for his performance in “Emancipation,” in which he plays a runaway slave. His appearance marked his first in-person speech since the Oscars ceremony. Earlier in the week, he was honored with an NAACP Image Award for outstanding actor in a motion picture for “Emancipation.”
The explosive Oscars moment came while Rock was presenting the award for best documentary. After Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith, the actor leaped from his seat, went onstage and struck Rock across the face.
Comedian Chris Rock will be the first artist to perform a live special on Netflix, which some analysts say could help create more appointment-based TV on streaming.
Less than an hour later, Smith was back onstage, this time making tearful but awkward reference to the attack as he accepted the lead actor award for “King Richard.” Days later, he resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures and was issued a 10-year ban from academy activities, including the Oscars.
The assault became the dominant talking point of last year’s Academy Awards, tarnishing what, up to that point, was a powerful celebration of Black achievement and excellence. He has addressed the incident occasionally, posting an Instagram video in July and making brief comments during interviews promoting “Emancipation.”
Read Rock’s full comments about the slap and the Smiths in “Selective Outrage” below.
Y’all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith. I got smacked at the Oscars by this motherf—, and people ask, “Did it hurt?” It still hurts! I got “Summertime” ringing in my ears. But I’m not a victim, baby. You will never see me on Oprah or Gayle crying. Never gonna happen. I can’t believe it, and I love “Men in Black.” Never gonna happen.
I took that hit like Pacquiao, motherf— ... I know you can’t tell on camera, but Will Smith is significantly bigger than me. We are not the same size. Will Smith does movies with his shirt off. You’ve never seen me do a movie with my shirt off. I’m in a movie getting open heart surgery, I’m in a sweater. Will Smith played Muhammad Ali in a movie. You think I auditioned for that part? I played Pookie in “New Jack City.” ... Even in animation, this motherf— is bigger. I’m a zebra, he’s a shark.
Will Smith practices selective outrage. Everybody knows what the f— happened. Everybody who really knows, knows I had nothing to do with that s—. I didn’t have any “entanglements.” ... His wife was f— her son’s friend. Now, I normally would not talk about this s—. But for some reason [they] put that s— on the internet. I have no idea why two talented people would do something that lowdown. ... We all been cheated on. Everybody in here’s been cheated on. None of us have ever been interviewed by the person that cheated on us on television. “Hey, I was sucking somebody’s d—. How did that make you feel?”
She hurt him way more than he hurt me, OK? Everybody in the world called him a b—. I called the motherf— to give him my condolences, he ain’t pick up for me. ... They called him a b—. They called his wife a predator. And who does he hit? Me. [Someone] he knows he can beat. That is some b—-ass s—.
I didn’t do nothing to this motherf—, OK? Years ago, she said I should quit the Oscars. I shouldn’t host because her man didn’t get nominated [for “Concussion”]. The biggest piece of s— ever. ... So I did some jokes about him. That’s how it is. She starts it, I finish it. OK? That’s what happened. Nobody’s picking on this b—. She started this s—. Nobody was picking on her. She said me, a grown-ass man, should quit his job because her husband didn’t get nominated. And then [he] gives me a concussion. What the f—, man?
I loved Will Smith. All my life I loved [him]. ... He made some great movies. I have rooted for Will Smith my whole life. And now I watch “Emancipation” just to see him get whupped. Got me rooting for massa. A lot of people say, “Chris, how come you didn’t do nothing back?” ’Cause I got parents. Because I was raised, OK? You know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.